The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Payton Sandfort’s heroic performance draws Caitlin Clark comparisons

The Hawkeye forward earned high praise after his 22-point first half paved the way for a career-high 30-point night.
Carly Schrum
Iowa forward Payton Sandfort shoot a three point shot during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Kansas State at the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 91-82. Sandford was 50% from the three point line.

According to Kansas State men’s basketball head coach Jerome Tang, the Iowa men’s basketball team has their own Caitlin Clark. Not No. 22, but No. 20 – Payton Sandfort. 

“It was at the top of the scouting report, a big picture of [Payton Sandfort],” Tang said of the Iowa sharpshooter. “In fact, our coaches who did the scout referred to him as their Caitlin Clark, and I don’t know if he could have given a better description.”

Sandfort certainly lived up to the Wildcats’ evaluation of him as he poured in a career-high 30 points – 22 in the first half – while also tying his career-highs with 12 rebounds, nine made field goals, and seven made three-point field goals in the Hawkeyes’ 91-82 victory Tuesday night. 

The third-year forward was feeling it right away hitting back-to-back threes within the first minute of the game. Just over two minutes later, he caught the backward pass from Tony Perkins on the fast break for a trailing catch-and-shoot three to bring his point total to nine with three made threes. 

Sandfort tacked on two more points at the free throw line two possessions later before going quiet for nearly three minutes due to some heavy-pressure defense from the Wildcats. But around the 13-minute mark in the first half, he caught the Patrick McCaffery kick-out pass at the top of the key, drove left, and hit a 20-foot and-one baseline jumper with the defender all up in his space. 

“You come out and just try to have fun,” Sandfort said of his hot shooting. “I was really excited for this opportunity. I just had a great time out there, you know, fighting with the guys. And when you’re having fun like that, I think it’s easy to get cooking.”

The sharpshooter continued to cook, knocking down an absurdly fast catch-and-shoot pull-up three near the left corner to bring his point total up to 17 points in seven-and-a-half minutes of play. After the heat check, Sandfort was subbed out and received a nice ovation from the crowd when making his way to the bench. 

Iowa’s leading scorer spent three minutes catching his breath before subbing back into the game. He was relatively quiet as he missed one three-point attempt and grabbed one rebound over a six-minute stretch before snagging two offensive rebounds in two straight possessions and logging two more points at the free-throw line.

For Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, Sandfort’s rebound total was just as impressive as his scoring, as the forward had the awareness to crash the boards, specifically when Kansas State face-guarded him, allowing for inside position. 

Sandfort hit his fifth three of the game with 38 seconds left to cap off a 22-point, seven-rebound first half. 

“[Opponents have] been guarding him up down the stretch,” Ben Krikke said of Payton Sandfort’s recent hot stretch of games. “He’s had a lot of big games and we expected nothing different this game.”

Sandfort only logged eight points and five rebounds in the second half, but the manner in which those points came about was timely. His backdoor cut layup off a Kansas State turnover pushed the lead to double-digits with 13:45 remaining; his constant off-ball motion set up a wide-open three to push the lead to nine with just over six minutes to go; and a corner trey off a Krikke hustle play was the dagger that put the game away. 

The sharpshooter’s command for attention wherever he was on the court opened up opportunities for his teammates in the second half. Krikke scored 21 of his 24 points in the second half and credited that production to the defensive focus on Sandfort.

“They were mugging him in his space all night long,” Krikke said. “So it opened up different looks for different guys. He got hot for us and hit some big shots down the stretch and affected the game in different ways.”

“The thing that was impressive to me when he gets cooking like that is that teams adjust,” Fran McCaffery said of Sandfort’s career-high performance. “He just kept screening and moving and getting people open. And by virtue of how they were going to him, other people were open … Everybody’s open because this guy is on fire.”

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About the Contributors
Chris Meglio
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.
Carly Schrum
Carly Schrum, Photojournalist
Carly is a freshman majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and potentially majoring in sustainability. She works at the Daily Iowan as a photojournalist.